The Components of Quitting Smoking - Breaking Dependence

Posted at 8:10 pm on 05/17/2014 by Dave Greene RN, CWCC

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 7:41 AM

Good Morning,

I wanted to start this post with a question to all the readers and smokers out there, "Why is it difficult to stop smoking?"  If you've attended a smoking cessation program or participated in a self-paced program you may know the answer.  It is most often stated that the challenge of quitting involves a physical, behavioral, and emotional component that all need to be addressed to create a lasting success.  How these issues are addressed is the differentiating factor between the programs offered to consumers in the marketplace.

Physical- Within ten seconds of the first inhalation, nicotine, a potent alkaloid, passes into the bloodstream, transits the barrier that protects the brain from most impurities, and begins to act on brain cells. Nicotine molecules fit like keys into the ?nicotine? receptors on the surface of the brain's neurons. In fact, nicotine fits the same ?keyholes? as one of the brain's most important neurotransmitters (signal chemicals), acetylcholine, which results in a rush of stimulation and an increase in the flow of blood to the brain.

After ten puffs have flowed through the lungs, the smoker feels energized and clearheaded, but this is partly due to the fact that this was a period which ended a nicotine depravation, and another is about to happen. Within 30 minutes, the nicotine is reduced and the smoker feels the energy slipping away. A second cigarette is lit, and there is another surge of adrenaline, but now there is a feeling of one of the paradoxes of smoking, that at one dose it can stimulate, at another soothe. The muscles throughout your body starts to relax, and your pain threshold rises.

Another 30 minutes pass and the attention of the smoker increasingly drifts away from work and toward the nearby pack of cigarettes. Nicotine prompts brain cells to grow many more nicotine receptors which allow the brain to function normally despite an unnatural amount of acetylcholine-like chemical acting on it, so the smoker feels normal when nicotine floods the neurons and abnormal when it doesn't. ?You might say smokers live near the edge of a cliff,? says Jack Henningfield of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore. ?Most are never more than a few hours away from the start of nicotine withdrawal symptoms.?

Behavioral - Nicotine dependence involves behavioral as well as physical factors. Behaviors and cues that you may associate with smoking include:
  • Certain times of the day, such as first thing in the morning, with morning coffee or during breaks at work
  • After a meal
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Certain places or friends
  • Talking on the phone
  • Stressful situations or when you're feeling down
  • Sight or smell of a burning cigarette
  • Driving your car
To overcome your dependence on tobacco, you need to deal with the behaviors and routines that you associate with smoking.

EmotionalMost people start smoking in their teens for social reasons, smoking quickly becomes connected with specific feelings and situations. It is this emotional attachment to cigarettes that can be the most difficult to break.
Understanding the psychological role of smoking can make a big difference to your success at quitting.
Smoking can be:
  • a particular part of your daily life
  • your way of dealing with stress and difficult situations
  • an aid to concentration and observation
  • a reward
  • a way to pass the time
  • a means of introduction and meeting new friends etc.
  • a way to feel part of a group
  • an effective 'pause signal' between tasks
  • a habit
  • an enjoyable ritual
  • a part of your identity.
Hopefully as a smoker you could relate to the information shared, and were able to think of personal examples or situations that have made it difficult for you to stop smoking.  At MINDWAYS we approach these challenges by helping you with a process of self discovery that answers the question of "why I smoke?".  We utilize this information to identify the scale of addiction, underlying motivations, and to create personalized interventions using all aspects of the mind to create a lasting freedom from nicotine dependence. 

In the next posting we'll provide an example of an exercise you can perform with your mind to drive change and empowerment.  Please help us in providing content that you find valuable by commenting on this post.  Thank you for visiting. 

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